Australia and NZ 'consult closely' on Iraq

Linda Reynolds. Photo: Getty Images
Linda Reynolds. Photo: Getty Images
Australia has vowed to "work closely" with New Zealand as the country withdraws its troops from Iraq.

But Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has not specifically said whether Australia will follow suit, saying overseas operations are constantly under review.

"Australia and New Zealand consult closely on their respective deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan," Senator Reynolds told AAP today.

"Australia is proud to support the Iraqi Security Forces, alongside its New Zealand counterparts."

Since 2015, New Zealand has deployed personnel alongside Australian forces to train Iraqi soldiers at Taji, north of Baghdad.

New Zealand has announced its contribution to the mission will be ending over the next year, with 95 Kiwis coming home.

The nation's defence minister has suggested the withdrawal will not be unilateral.

"Now it's about mentoring and training trainers and then, alongside of Australia, exiting and having an exit plan. It's not just New Zealand that's downsizing here," Ron Mark told reporters yesterday.

"We will be downsizing alongside of them, working with them, not just walking away from the mission."

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern added: "I think their deployment has changed but it's not for me to ultimately put a date on their decision."

Australia has also been considering the future of Task Group Taji, amid speculation a ninth rotation of trainers, deployed in June may be the last.

But it has not made any formal announcement.

"We will continue to work closely with New Zealand as it gradually draws down its footprint in Iraq," Senator Reynolds said.

"Australia regularly reviews its overseas operations, taking into account the needs of the Iraqi government and the operational context on the ground."

There are about 300 Australian Defence Force personnel at the camp.

Kiwi and Australian soldiers have together trained about 44,000 Iraqi troops to fight Islamic State at the camp since their mission began.

Iraq declared victory over the militant group in 2017.

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